Wednesday, April 25, 2012

And what is that for??

The more I browse old silver and china, the more I unearth the strange and interesting pieces that have been lost to time. So many pieces, most stemming from the Victorian era, are now mostly obsolete, or have been moved from the silver pantry to kitchen drawers, being redesigned and now made of silicone and stainless. Boo. Boring.

For me, it's totally fascinating to uncover these pieces, and more often than not, I learn the use and find myself saying, "ah, that makes sense!" And then I want one!

Some of my favorites...

Hooded asparagus server, La Scala by Gorham
via

I have actually acquired two of these guys. I have this special place in my heart for the now-neglected asparagus servers. There's something super frivolous (only for asparagus? How often does one actually eat asparagus?) but also super functional about them. Just you try lifting asparagus with a regular spatula. They will roll right off onto your floor. I suppose you could use tongs, but whatever. Of course, they make special asparagus tongs as well...


Saratoga/cracker spoon, Chrysanthemum by Gorham
via

The Saratoga spoon is interesting. It it used for chips, crackers, etc. The name comes from Saratoga, the city, where some early chip-maker served up chips and the name was given to this shape of spoon. They are fantastic for big serving bowls of chips or popcorn, where you don't want someone sticking their grubby fingers... or just to be extra classy :)

I have an excellent Grand Baroque Saratoga spoon, but it is solid. I find the Chrysanthemum spoon above, with its cut-work, especially lovely.

Over cup tea strainer, Kirk Stieff Silver
via

How much prettier is this than a metal mesh strainer!? I want one, but alas I haven't found one for my collection yet.

Crumb knife, Hizen by Gorham
via

Through the years, bread and butter plates have not always been on the table. For much of history, a diner simply set their bread on the tablecloth (not slathered in butter). When necessary, crumbs could be brushed away using one of these lovely crumb knives, or simply with a hand (but where's the fun in that?). Also for this purpose, the "silent butler" came about. Those usually look like little boxes with a handle and hinged top. Often silent butlers have a matching brush to whisk crumbs into the box.

Fun fact about eating bread at the table: etiquette says that one never bites the bread. To be proper, break off a small piece, butter it (or not) and eat it. Repeat. This was done because in medieval times, leftover bread was given to the poor. 


Orange/Grapefruit spoon, Grand Baroque by Wallace
via

Now these just make sense. Grapefruits are very hard to section with a regular tea spoon.

Cake breaker, Grand Baroque by Wallace
via

The cake breaker. Just like the name implies, it was used to cut slices of delicate cakes, like angel food, where a regular knife would squish the frothy dough. Or, in case you get locked in your pantry, a hair brush.

Mote spoon, Georgian silver (possibly George Smith)
via Silver Perfect

An 18th century piece, the mote spoon is along the lines of a tea strainer, but not quite. The perforated bowl could be used not only to skim leaves from your cup, but also to transfer leaves to the pot, shaking out the too-small bits first. The pointed tail is handy to unclog loose leaves from the spout of the pot. I'm especially drawn to the mote spoon because it has such an interesting shape, and sadly, though they are particularly handy to loose tea drinkers, in the modern day of tea bags they have no purpose and so are no longer made.

There are countless other pieces that I have not mentioned. Hundreds, I'm sure. Above is just a sampling of pieces I find especially interesting and frivolous, and at the same time still very useful. Does anyone else have a favorite obscure or obsolete piece of tableware? Perhaps a ramekin or terrapin fork? A jelly spoon? A rooster-shaped egg topper? Do share!

11 comments:

  1. I think the cake breaker is my favourite. Bring back the cake breaker!

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    1. I could not justify getting a silver cake breaker to my husband. Apparently we don't eat enough cake. Sad. So I went on Amazon and found a plain ol wood one for $4. Yay! Maybe I will paint the handle silver and pretend :)

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  2. I love these pieces! Thanks for elaborating on them. In thinking about MY favorites, I recall a little fork that is sterling, with an "M" on it (my initial), decorated with a cabochon turquoise stone. It was my baby utencil, but I use it now on my serving trays for little items like olives, baby corn, button mushrooms, etc.

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    1. And with your silver baby spoon did you have a pusher? I want a baby just so I can buy one!

      http://www.silversuperstore.com/baby/grande-baroque-food-pusher.html

      ... maybe I'll settle on a silver porringer to feed Harlow her kibble. Classy dog.

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    2. No, I didn't have a food pusher. But I did have a sterling silver teether/rattle. It even carries the teeth marks! I use it as a Christmas ornament now. I think you have one as well. No plastic teether for you!!

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  3. I should get a Saratoga spoon! Seeing as I live very near there. Thanks for this post, I didn't know about these things.

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    1. So excited I could pass on some interesting info. I learn something new every day! Happy to share :)

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  4. These are interesting! I love the mote spoon. As for grapefruits - we always use a table knife (what is it really called in English? - the not-sharp kind).

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    1. Probably a "place knife". They also make little curved, serated knives now too.

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    2. And what are those curved ones like? Like this? http://www.gastroradwan.eu/665-662-thickbox/n-piborovy-marina--l-210-cmn.jpg I'm Czech, you see, so it's all a bit of uncertain ground for me - is it the same with you or not? :-)

      Serrated knives are the bane of my life! And my family's. Someone, some time ago, decided that bread knives are supposed to be serrated. And you can't get a new bread knife that isn't. No one in my family can cut bread with a serrated knife; there's always more bread left on the table than for you to eat. I don't know if it has to do with the quality of Czech bread or us, but the fact is, serrated knives don't work for us.

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